Leadership humility is easily lost as leaders see success and begin to believe that they have all the answers. That is not lost on those they lead. However there are five practices that can help leaders stay humble and lead with humility. They will also help her/him lead better.
First: I don't have all the answers. We all know that people who think they have all the answers are self deluded. One of the most humble attitudes leaders can model is that of communicating to their staff that "we have challenges we need to solve, and we need to figure out solutions together because I don't know the best way forward. I may have ideas but I am open to dialogue, discussion and other ideas."
This paves the way for the second practice: I want your input and I will listen to what you have to say. It is amazing what solutions emerge when we are willing to actively solicit opinions and ideas from those around us. And then actively listen to others, no matter where they are in the organization or team. Leaders who actively ask questions, listen well and show respect for the ideas of others lead better and have better information. They also know what their staff are thinking.
Third, if something goes wrong I will take the hit and protect my staff. This is a real test of humility. All of us want to blame others when things go wrong but the best leaders take the blame when there is a problem. Behind the scenes they may need to have hard conversations but in public they are willing to take the blame for the team.
Fourth, when things go right they give the credit to the team. No leader sees success without the hard work of a team and the best leaders give that team the credit for success. Humble leaders do not call attention to themselves but to the team that did the work together. One of the quickest ways to lose the respect of others is to take credit for what the team did.
Which leads to the fifth practice. A culture where we "do things together." Staff are not servants to a leader. A leader is an active member of the staff as together they tackle the problems and opportunities they face. "We are in this together" is a powerful ethos for leaders to cultivate with their staff.
Humility is not simply a matter of our heart but it is a matter of our practices in leadership.
TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.